This is the review of a game about a man named Stanley. In this game, Stanley is controlled by a person at a computer, and it is their job to ensure that Stanley follows the Narrator's instructions. By doing so faithfully, the player will see a story unfold before them, as it was meant to be.
However, the player also has a degree of agency themselves, and may sometimes decide to detour from the Narrator's chosen course. When this happens, the Narrator will try to adapt. Whether Stanley is wandering around in the basement, staring at paintings in the employee lounge, or stuck in a broom closet, the Narrator will be hard at work changing his narration to match what Stanley is presently doing.
Of course the Narrator is here to tell a specific story; the story he planned, wrote, and prepared for. With this in mind, it's only natural that he should become frustrated and upset when Stanley attempts to wrestle control of the story away from him. This may prompt the Narrator to come up with various ways to steer Stanley back on course, or he may simply give up and restart things from the beginning. Alternatively, should there be no better way to resolve things, he might instead change the story to ensure that Stanley's hubris earns him a swift end.
Ultimately, this game is not a game, but a grand exploration of the nature of the story and those taking part in it. There are many ways this could play out, and it's all up to you, the player, to decide the fate of Stanley and by proxy, the Narrator. This is an experience that everyone should try out at least once in their gaming career.
Many twists and turns
Nearly everything that you can do has been planned in advance. This results in the Narrator always having some response for whatever you have Stanley do. Taking this to the logical extreme, there are also a number of different endings
. Sometimes Stanley will find freedom, other times he'll be the victim of some unfortunate event, and sometimes the narrative structure of the story will simply unravel like an old sweater or cheap hosiery. Finding all of the ways the game can end is a large part of the fun!
Everything in this game is there for a reason. Many of the props display silly and ridiculous things, such as the slideshow in the meeting room that displays messages similar to the empty platitudes seen in many "team building" exercises. The Narrator is also fond of hamming it up, especially when you've completed several playthroughs in a row. One example is my favorite of the endings
, known as the Confusion Ending. Between the Narrator, Stanley, and the newly-hired Stanley Parable Adventure Line™, nobody can figure out how to get back to the story itself and the Narrator's flailing attempts at logically solving the dilemma only make things worse.
Steam community features -- sort of
While most of the game exists for a reason, there are a few unexpected easter eggs
that exist just to make you laugh. Finding these is harder than it sounds, as you're already expected to be venturing into places you shouldn't and doing things that make no sense (ie, the sort of thing you'd normally do to find an easter egg
in a game). Fortunately, instructional guides exist to help you find them.
Completionists be warned
The Stanley Parable does support Steam achievements
, but these aren't just any achievements
, no sir! Like the rest of the game, it's all a big joke on the nature of games, and thus the achievements
are either impossible or just plain crazy. For example, there's an achievement
for going outside (ie, not playing the game for several years), and another achievement
for playing the game for an entire Tuesday.
One of the drawbacks to the joke achievements
is that there is no way to actually earn some of them. Your Steam profile can be configured to proudly display the number of games you own and the number of games where you've earned every achievement
, and once you own the Stanley Parable, these numbers will never match. Of course, most people aren't going to mind this very much, but some of the more OCD-driven completionists
out there might have a different opinion.
Although several of the things you can do result in Stanley dying, you'll never see any blood. In some cases, the game stops just before his demise occurs, allowing you to restart the game and try another path. There is also one scenario where you're forced to keep pressing a button to prevent an image of a baby from being destroyed in a fire. This situation is rigged in such a way that you'll inevitably fail, and the Narrator comments about you being a bad person as the wooden baby burns.
A small bit of swearing
When the Narrator gets sufficiently upset, he may let slip an occasional "damn" or "crap". More serious expletives are stated as abbreviations rather than the actual words. Most kids will easily work out what he's talking about though, so that doesn't really help much.
Disobedience is rewarded
Or to put it another way, disobeying the Narrator's instructions is pretty much the goal
of the game. Granted, some of the time it results in things going badly for Stanley, but even these outcomes are rather funny. The Narrator's behavior isn't always nice either, as he clearly needs to spend some time learning how to play with others. That doesn't exactly justify having Stanley go off script, but it does highlight that both sides of the story have problems they need to deal with. On the other hand, if the player and the Narrator work together, then Stanley will save his coworkers and find true happiness -- the best ending
of them all.